The Mikimoto brand was founded by Kokichi Mikimoto, who was born on January 25, 1858, in Toba, a small town in Japan’s Shima peninsula. He was the eldest son of a hard-working noodle shop owner. When Mikimoto’s father fell ill, he was forced to leave school to help support the family financially. International trade had arrived in Japan in the early 1850s, and in Mikimoto’s port hometown of Toba, pearls were the most valuable local commodity. Mikimoto intensely pursued the trade and gained some success, but the pearls became more and more scarce as the years passed. Concerned about the extinction of the pearl-producing oysters, Mikimoto set out to grow pearls within the oysters of his own protected beds.
After many years of research, experiments, and overcoming nature’s obstacles, such as oyster-eating octopuses and repeated damage to his Akoya pearl oyster beds by red algae, Mikimoto finally triumphed. On July 11, 1893, Mikimoto’s wife brought up a basket of oysters from the sea for inspection, which revealed a semi-spherical cultured pearl as worthy as a natural pearl. Three years later, in 1896, Mikimoto was granted his first patent for cultured pearls.
A few years after securing a patent for the cultured pearl, Mikimoto opened his first pearl boutique in Tokyo’s Ginza district in 1899. Stores in London, Paris and other major cities soon followed. Kokichi Mikimoto devoted his life to pearls and lived to be 96 years old, passing away in Japan on September 21, 1954. His luxury pearl company and artistic vision still live on today.